Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rice and Beans

One of my favorite memories of my time spent in Central America is waking up to the smell of Gallo Pinto (rice and beans).  The aroma wafts out of tiny kitchens and into the sidewalks and alleys of cobblestone streets.  The strong scent even flows into the thickness of neighboring jungles.  Somehow it thickens the air, even on the hottest, most humid mornings.  

Mothers and grandmothers, sisters and daughters make this dish with such pride and such care.  It is warm and it is wholesome.  It fills little tummies as they set off on their day.  

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tree Hugging

I have a friend who is very accomplished, beautiful dancer, originally from West Africa.  She spent many of her formidable years in France and this worldly upbringing coupled with her free-spirited nature makes her a gem of a person.  
She told me once that her young niece was having some difficulties dealing with some of the typical frustrations that every 3 year old deals with.  My friend told her niece to go outside and find a tree in her backyard.  This had to be a special tree.  She needed to be very discriminating in the chosing of the special tree.  So, after some time, her niece found a tree which she felt some sort of connection to. 
My friend then told her that whenever she is feeling frustrated, or angry, or sad, or anything...she could go to this tree and tell it how she feels.  Now this may seem a little silly to you - but lo and behold if one day my friend looked out the window and saw her little niece hugging the tree.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Buseki-San's Baskets

When I lived in Tokyo years ago, I heard about a man named Buseki-san (Mr. Buseki) who made beautiful baskets out of bamboo.  His shop was in the old part of Tokyo, which, at that time, was rarely frequented by tourists, called Sendagi.  So, one morning, I ventured out to Sendagi in search for a woven work of art made by Buseki-san.

Sendagi station was the first train station I discovered in Tokyo whose signs were not written in romanized letters.  Only Kanjii and Hirigana existed here.  And as well as I could speak Japanese, I could not read a lick of it!  So, I know I was in for an adventure here.  

The streets were lined with little shops that had been around for several hundred years.  Kimono makers, fabric shops, tea shops, pickle shops were sandwiched tightly together in this historic community.  Shopkeepers swept their sidewalks, bicycles brushed by, and little dogs scampered throughout the streets.

Finally, I came upon Mr. Buseki's shop.  It was a quiet shop, at the foot of a long stairway which led, I believe, to a shrine.  I walked in, and was amazed by the small artfully displayed baskets.  Each was placed with great care on little shelves throughout the shop.  Within moments, I had chosen the one I wanted.  I pointed to it and told the basket maker I wanted it.  He said "No."  Well, actually, he didn't really say "no."  The word "no" is rarely used in the Japanese language - which I think is an interesting insight to their way of handling things.  He did, however, tell me to have a seat on the tatami mat and wait.

Buseki-san disappeared into a back room with my basket.  Moments later, he re-emerged through the noren (split curtains in the doorway) with my basket, some flowers, and some scissors.  He place the basket on a little podium, and then went to work artfully arranging the flower (ikebana-style) in the basket.  He told me to wait again.  Once more, he disappeared into the back room, only this time to reemerge with a small pot of tea and two tea cups.  
Buseki-san and I sat and drank tea as we gazed upon the basket.  So much work went into creating this basket, he wanted me to be sure it was the right one for me.  He was not going to let it go to the wrong owner.  Sure enough, after about a half hour, we has agreed this particular creation was meant for me.  He felt I would take good care of it.  And he agreed to sell it to me.

I will always remember this experience when I find myself rushing through daily life.  There is time to sit and think and ponder.  You just have to make the time.

Midori-Ya (tel. 03/3828-1746